Tag Archives: Mecca

The Colours of My Eid: Memories of Hajj and Eid al-Adha by Suzanne Muir illustrated by Azra Momin

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The Colours of My Eid: Memories of Hajj and Eid al-Adha by Suzanne Muir illustrated by Azra Momin

 

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At 18 pages, this 8 x 8 book focused around colors contains a lot more information than what initially meets your eyes.  The warm beautiful, full page pictures fall opposite a highlighted color and a description of that color in the child’s world that reminds the characters of their time at Hajj or celebrating Eid al-Adha.  On each of the fun text pages is a light green text box at the bottom with factual information that older children or adults will benefit from and be able to share with younger listeners.  The main text is ideal for toddlers and up, and older kids up to 3rd grade will benefit from the nonfiction highlights that can educate or remind Muslims and non Muslims alike, about the importance of Hajj and Eid al-Adha.  

The book starts with an introduction about the Islamic language and perspective used, and clarifies that the colours emphasized are to help visualize the point being made, it also gives information about Eid al-Adha.

The colors highlighted are: white, black, brown, green, grey, yellow, and purple.  The large simple text takes something relatable such as the monkey bars, or balloons, or the sky and corresponds it to a memory of Arafat, or ihram, or the hills of Safa and Marwa.

The nonfiction text gives specific dimensions of the Ka’aba, the story of Hajar and baby Ismail, the requirement of Hajj and some of the steps.  There is a lot of information conveyed which at times is incredibly detailed, and sometimes, rather vague and generic, i.e. Tawaf is when Muslim pilgrims circle the Ka’aba as part of the Hajj rituals. Overall, this little book packs a punch, and I was equally impressed at how it held my five year old’s attention with the colors, and my interest with the facts detailed below.

 

 

 

Leila and the Sands of Time by Shirin Shamsi

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Leila and the Sands of Time by Shirin Shamsi

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This 127 page book has a lot of potential, but ultimately didn’t win me over.  It is one of those that needs a good editor to encourage the author to flesh out the characters, take advantage of a potentially cathartic resolution, and fill the gaping holes in the story.  Meant for ages 8-12 the tiny font, and tight spacing, make the book really dense and intimidating to look at and read.  The book, as written, should be well over 200 pages, if spaced appropriately for the target audience.  Once you accept the presentation and get in to the story, it isn’t an awful read, it just could have and should have been so much more.  I hope the author revisits it and polishes it up- the time travel, the science DNA component, and the death of the protagonist’s parents, offer a lot for Muslim and non Muslim readers to sink their teeth in and be swept away by, but ultimately, I don’t know that most readers will be motivated to finish the book, and those that do, won’t remember anything about it.

SYNOPSIS:

Laila’s dad has recently died, and with her mother having died years earlier, Laila is now 13 and an orphan living with her stepmom and baby sister.  Feeling resentful that her dad remarried and had a child that took time away from her in his final span of life, doesn’t make Laila a very kind person at home.  Her best friend Beth, even points out how cold she is to her family.  With school vacations approaching, Laila is headed for Umrah with her dad’s brother, her uncle, and his wife.  While making tawaf, Laila loses her aunt and uncle in the crowd and finds herself transported to 7th century Arabia.  She hears a baby crying and learns that the baby’s life is in danger.  To save her, she must get the baby, the baby’s mom and baby’s sister from Makkah to Yathrib.  The only way to do that is to join a caravan, and they can only join a caravan if they have a male escort.  So Laila chops off her hair, acts like a boy, and gets them in the caravan.  They meet bandits along the way, but nothing too scary, they arrive in Medina and right before they meet RasulAllah, Laila finds herself back in the present.  She is in a hospital, but the doctors do not know what is wrong with her so they release her.  She returns to the US, relays the story to Beth, and decides that at an upcoming field trip to study DNA, she is going to submit the baby’s hair that she still has for dating.  The results show it is from 1400 years ago and a family heirloom of her step moms reveals that the baby is a great great great great… grandmother of her’s.  Resolved to open her heart to her family, Laila is a changed person, alhumdulillah.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the premise, it is like Sophia’s Journal and When Wings Expand  thrown together and scrambled.  Laila is struggling with her faith and is trying to find it, while also finding a way to move forward after losing her father.  There are just a lot of things that aren’t answered, are contradictory, or don’t make sense.  It says she learned Arabic because her mother spoke it, her dad is desi, but really no hiccups speaking in 7th century Arabia other than forgetting the word for scissors?  She at one point said she was a cousin from the north, but while on the caravan mentioned that she had never travelled through the desert.  There really should have been more action with the thieves and the regrouping when the men came back.  Similarly, her gender reveal should have been a bigger deal than it was.  I was hoping there would be a mention of if her hair was long or short when she awoke in the hospital, I don’t think I missed it, but maybe, or maybe it wasn’t there.  Once back home, there really needed to be a reunion scene with Laila and her stepmom and half sister, I mean the whole point of the time travel was to save a baby. Really? Nothing? I was disappointed that it was glossed over and mentioned as a retelling to Beth and pushed aside.  The second climax is when the DNA testing is being questioned, but I didn’t get the need for the babysitter and everything to be rearranged for a two second conversation with the principal accusing Laila of theft, a phone call should have sufficed, plus when Laila and Beth mention it to the scientist, it seems everyone was questioned, but Beth wasn’t, something wasn’t consistent there either.  Overall, the book needed more action for a book that involves time travel and more emotional attachment and character connection for a book that involves a newly orphaned young teen girl.

I like the conveying of Islamic facts and information and history in a fairly smooth way.  At the beginning, Umrah being explained was a little text bookish, but it smoothed out as the book progressed.  I love the little flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter, I wish there would have been some information about the remarriage of her father and her emotions on the matter at that time.  It is one thing to be grieving, but really she is a brat to her step mom, and if the uncle and aunt live right there, not sure where they live, someone should really be working on getting them all some family therapy, not a quality situation for anyone.

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I wouldn’t use the book as a book club selection, nor would I think it would get read if on a classroom shelf.  I might use the premise of going back in time to meet Prophet Muhammad, as a writing prompt though.  Would be a good assignment with factual and Islamic references to get kids stretching their imagination to make it all come together and work.

 

Owl & Cat Go To Hajj by Emma Apple

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Owl & Cat Go To Hajj by Emma Apple

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I thought I knew what this latest Owl & Cat book would entail.  I figured like the Islam is… and Ramadan is… books, this book would, in its simplicity, poignancy, and repetitive sentence structure convey the emotions and importance of Hajj.  So imagine my complete surprise when the 78 page book with two familiar characters actually detailed day-by-day the steps of Hajj for young preschool aged readers and listeners and up.

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Owl and Cat show what a pilgrim does on each of the 5 days of Hajj.  Each section is separated by days with color tabs on top to keep the steps clear.  The illustrations are a little crisper than in previous books which resembled little doodles a bit more to me.  And while the simplicity of sentence structure, length, and diction remains, the book is a lot more factual and didactic than sentimental, especially compared to the other books in the series.

The book starts off with a a list of contents and an informative page about Hajj.  Owl and Cat then pack their bags, and travel by plane to Mecca. Day one has them putting on ihram, performing tawaf, sa’iy, and heading to Mina.  Some details about what each step means are given, but nothing overwhelming or too wordy.  The illustrations show what the text means and offer a lot to the understanding, if the concepts are foreign.

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Day two is going to Arafat, and standing in prayer at Jabal ar-Rahma.  They then head to Muzdalifah to rest and collect stones.  It also mentions that “many Muslims who are not on Hajj will fast.”

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Day three takes them back to Mina to throw their pebbles, make sacrifice, cut their hair, and change out of their ihram before they do their second tawaf, sa’iy, and travel back to Mina for Eid.

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Day four is in Mina stoning the jamarat as is day five before they travel back to Mecca to do the final tawaf and drink Zamzam water before their Hajj is complete.

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The book would probably work for non Muslims in that it isn’t preachy, but some base knowledge would be needed as there isn’t a glossary.  The book is pretty thorough for a children’s book, but I think the information is needed.  Many children do stimulations of Hajj or read simplified versions and don’t realize there is some back and forth and many of the actions are done more than once, and that it is a lot of actions, steps, and traveling in a short amount of time.

 

We’re off to make ‘Umrah by Sana Munshey illustrated by Eman Salem

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We’re off to make ‘Umrah by Sana Munshey illustrated by Eman Salem

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Its surprising how few books about Umrah there are for children.  As a religious act that many children are included in, there really should be more, but alhumdulillah this fun one exists, and conveys the steps of Umrah in rhyming fashion for ages 4 and up.

Told from a little boy’s perspective about his family’s journey, a little history is given, before the major parts of Umrah are explored.  The book prefaces the story with a note to parents and teachers making sure they know the book is a semi-fictional narrative meant to reinforce learning, it isn’t a comprehensive guide. 

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Full page pictures with four line stanza groups detail the steps about the journey and flight to Mecca, including defining and using the arabic words for the talbiyah, putting on ihram, crossing meeqat and praying rak’atayn.  The step-by-step approach is warm and exciting, as the pictures show smiling faces and the words balance information and enthusiasm of being in Mecca for the first time.

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Details about praying, rich and poor, side by side are included, making tawaf, seeing the black stone, seeing Maqam Ibrahim, drinking Zamzam water, a bit of history about Sa’i, and the little boy feeling tired going back and forth between Safa and Marwa are all given in a well paced narrative that is neither rushed, nor overly forced (just a little to keep the rhyme scheme :)).  The steps of Umrah conclude with the family members getting hair cuts and then a quick trip to Madinah.

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There is a glossary at the end of the 32 page book, that is nice for older kids, or as a way to reinforce words used to describe the journey.  I think the strength of the book is really that it shows what to expect during Umrah.  Children about to go will benefit from the mapping of the events and getting a heads up on what awaits them.  Children that have gone will have a handy way to remember what they did.  Children learning about Hajj perhaps, will be able to see how Umrah is shorter and be able to see what the similarities and differences are in a simple manner.  Even children who have no connection yet to Umrah will benefit from the vocabulary and excitement shared in the story.  While the story is aimed at younger kids, even middle elementary age kids will enjoy reading it once or twice.

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The book claims to come with a poster and paper dolls to reinact the steps of Umrah, but I purchased my book second hand and they weren’t present.  Hence, I didn’t comment on their quality, but it sounds like a wonderful supplement to the book.

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